The song was borne out of Newman’s assignment to pen a social distancing public service announcement for Los Angeles, but eventually grew into a love song for his wife Gretchen.
“I had an idea, because I knew I had to say ‘Stay away from me,’ and I sorta had that idea before I sat down,” Newman told CBS Sunday Morning’s John Blackstone.
Gretchen added, “When he said I’d written a song for you, a love song, I thought, ‘No, there’s gonna be something not right about it. And it’s beautiful, I have to say it’s beautiful.”
Proceeds from “Stay Away” benefit the Ellis Marsalis Center for Music in the 9th Ward, New Orleans; the Marsalis jazz family patriarch died April 1st due to complications related to COVID-19.
The songwriter behind “I Love L.A.” was also asked whether he’s curious about exploring a deserted Los Angeles in the midst of a statewide quarantine. “We’re in, we’re just here. I’d love to see it in a different way like that. It’d be stunning, when you’ve spent 60 years looking at Sunset Boulevard or Olympic Boulevard, it’d be stunning,” Newman said.
As for how they’re spending their self-isolation, Newman said that he volunteered to help out with the household chores during the quarantine, but Gretchen didn’t trust his vacuum skills. “I feel bad, I’m doing nothing,” Newman said.